For the first time in 54 years, the stars and stripes are flying above the American Embassy in Cuba.
Today, in a ceremony attended by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, a contingent of three U.S. Marines raised the American flag on a clear, nearly windless day.
The audience—which included the U.S. Marines who lowered the flag in 1961—applauded and cheered as the flag rose.
Secretary Kerry, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Cuba since the 1940s, spoke before the historic event.
"Having normal relations makes it easier for us to talk, and talk can deepen understanding, even when we know full well we will not see eye to eye on everything," said Kerry.
This is the latest action in an extremely busy period of U.S.-Cuba relations. On December 17, President Barack Obama announced sweeping changes to the relations between the United States and Cuba. On January 16, the changes were entered into the Federal Register, making them official, formally allowing increased remittances to Cuban nationals, permitting the use of American credit and debit cards in Cuba (although their use remains severely limited due to Cuban merchants operating as a cash economy), and the ability for travelers to bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars on sanctioned trips between Cuba and the United States, among other changes.
On July 1 Obama announced: "the United States has agreed to formally establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and reopen embassies in our respective countries. This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas."
Despite the many changes, the embargo remains, so Cuban goods remain illegal in the United States, save for the small number that can be brought back on official visits.
"We are all aware that not withstanding President Obama's new policy, the overall U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba remains in place, and can only be lifted by Congressional action, a step that we strongly favor," said Kerry.
Cigar Aficionado has covered Cuba for more than 22 years. For our latest guide to the city of Havana, see our June issue.